03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Worrying Never Works

I was talking to a friend of mine last week and she said, “If worrying
worked, I’d weigh 115 pounds and be a millionaire by now.”  I laughed
out loud – appreciating her humor and insight.

Worrying, which is something I’ve spent and wasted a lot of time and
energy on throughout my life, never seems to work, does it?  Worry is
actually detrimental to our health, well-being, and our ability to
manifest both the things and feelings we truly want in life.  When we
worry, we’re simply preparing to be upset in the future – assuming that
something “bad” will happen.

I’ve recently become even more aware of my own obsession with
worry and have realized for me, as is true for many of us, it
has simply become a habituated and unconscious behavior. 
At some level, I find myself justifying my own worrying –
thinking that it proves I really care, helps keep me focused,
or allows me to stay on top of things in a responsible way. 
While this all makes sense, on a deeper level I’ve realized
that worrying is just my erroneous attempt to control the uncontrollable
– life.

Given that we all know, at least to some degree, that worrying doesn’t
really work and actually makes things worse – why do we do it?

First of all, we’ve been trained to worry – by our parents,
teachers, friends, family members, co-workers, the media, our
culture, and more.  From the time we were kids and to this
day, we’re taught (directly and indirectly) that we’re supposed
to worry about lots of things – crime, illness, money, our
children, being taken advantage of, pollution, and so much more. 
While some may argue that there are many things we should be
concerned and aware about, “worrying” about any of these
things doesn’t make them better or help us address them in
a specific way.

Second of all, we’re not usually encouraged or even all that
good at acknowledging, addressing, and expressing our real emotions. 
Worry is often a suppressed form of fear, anger, shame, or other
emotions we find difficult to deal with.  Because worrying
is much more socially acceptable than expressing our authentic
fear (or anger, guilt, helplessness, shame, sadness, etc.),
we tend to actively worry about things all the time.  Our
inability to express our real emotions, which is usually the
source, is what keeps worry in place.

Finally, we worry that if we stop worrying, something really
bad will happen.  As ironic and odd as it may seem, we
continue to worry somehow thinking we are protecting ourselves.
In actuality when we worry we're just setting ourselves up for
more stress and fear.

Here are a few things you can do to let go of worry and live with a deeper sense of peace and freedom:

1)  Notice what you worry about – Like
most aspects of life and growth, the first step is authentic
awareness.  When we become conscious about our own habits,
thoughts, and patterns as it relates to worrying, we can start
to make some healthy choices and changes.  As you notice
your own tendency to worry, have compassion with yourself and
see if you're willing to let it go.

2)  Identify and express your real emotions –
The root cause of all worry is an emotion or set of
emotions.  If we can identify how we really feel (scared,
angry, sad, ashamed, helpless, etc.) and we’re willing to
express our emotions with passion and authenticity, we will
move through the emotion and release its energy, thus transforming
it and letting go of our worry.

3)  Take conscious and courageous action – Worry
often renders us inactive; stuck in a state of negative thinking
or fear based reactions.  Taking conscious and courageous
actions in the face of our fear and worry can be one of the
most empowering things for us to do.  This is not about
frantic, random, erroneous activity (just for the sake of doing
something), this is about us taking deliberate action as a way
of moving through our fear in a direct and confident way.

There’s nothing wrong with us for worrying – it is part of being human,
especially in our world today.  We don’t need to judge ourselves for
it, but it is important for us to acknowledge our worry when it shows
up, as it can be quite detrimental to our success, well-being, and
fulfillment in life.  When we remember that worrying never works and
we’re willing to dive deeper into what is really going on within us, we
can transform our worry and use it as a catalyst for positive change.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and
the bestselling author of
Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley)
Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info -

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